Greater regulation and scrutiny needed for certain graduate degrees
It is not a new phenomenon that we live in a globalised world, which means that countries and people are interconnected and interdependent. We benefit from the goods and services offered by others through e-commerce and bilateral agreements.
Additionally, the novel coronavirus has amplified online and digital education; therefore, more people can pursue studies internationally from anywhere in the world, as long as they have Internet connectivity and a functional device such as a laptop or a mobile phone.
Indubitably, digital education provides a great degree of flexibility, internationalisation, diversity, and cost efficiency for many. However, what can be said about the quality of education received from some of these institutions? Several of them are not even accredited by the local accreditation bodies in their countries. They are private institutions that do not undergo the rigour and scrutiny like other recognised institutions that took years to attain due status.
In recent times, I have come across an increased number of Jamaicans gaining multiple master’s and doctoral degrees through some of these so-called universities. Imagine obtaining two master’s and two doctorates in a four-year time span. This is very troubling for me as an academic, and the local academic sector should be equally concerned.
For those of us who go the doctor of philosophy (PhD) route, we understand that it is no walk in the park. Therefore, when these online universities award students graduate degrees without any serious academic work, it really undermines the overall quality of education. Consequently, universities and companies must undertake proper investigations to vet these degrees when they show up at our institutions and workplaces.
It is even of greater importance at the university level. Imagine hiring a faculty with one of these PhDs who has not done any serious academic work and appoint such a person assistant professor or senior lecturer, who has responsibilities for coordinating programmes and supervising master’s and doctoral theses. Our students will be at a serious disadvantage.
It is also unfair for such a colleague to be ranked at the same level and paid similarly to others who actually earned their PhDs.
I recently saw the published doctoral thesis submitted by a Jamaican colleague at one of these fake universities â€” not even 100 pages! It is not even up to the standard of my undergraduate research project.
I invite universities to do their due diligence when employing these people or admitting them for future studies. The University Council of Jamaica, the Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission, and other industry stakeholders should collaborate to flag some of these degrees when presented locally.
We need to act urgently; we must act now.